The man on the cover of Darkness Calls looks like he has the ends of a spaghetti noodle sticking out of his mouth. He may look like a sloppy eater, but he’s actually a vampire, and the hero of Caridad Pineiro’s first series romance.
Ryder Latimer owns The Lair, a popular New York nightspot, a fitting locale for a creature of the night. He remains close to the action, while remaining apart from the humans who come to party. At least until FBI agent Diana Reyes walks into the club. A killer is on the prowl at The Lair. Two women are dead so far, both of whom met their killer at Ryder’s club.
Diana is undercover with her partner to attract the killer’s attention, but it’s Ryder who notices Diana. She’s the same woman he’s seen in his dreams, and he is drawn to her from the moment he sees her in the club. Diana is likewise drawn to him. The tough agent knows there are a lot of unanswered questions about the mysterious Ryder, but the darkness she senses in him resonates with her. She knows what it’s like to walk on the dark side of life, and there’s a part of herself she’s revealed to no one. Ryder appeals to that side of her, creating feelings and drawing responses from her that she can’t resist. But she also doesn’t know what he really is.
This isn’t one of those sweeping vampire romances with their gothic, melodramatic vampires and complicated mythology a la Christine Feehan and Maggie Shayne. It’s a little grittier and more grounded in reality, or at least as much reality as a vampire story can be. It reminded me of the TV show Angel and what a romance between Angel and Kate would have been like, if Angel were less broody and Kate less whiny. Ryder is very much alone, and knows of no others like him. The author doesn’t develop her spin on the vampire mythology much more than what it relates to him. It’s sketchy in places (like how he was transformed by evil vampires, but isn’t evil himself) and is occasionally suspect, but it works well enough within the confines of this story.
I liked the atmosphere and the tone Pineiro establishes, as well as her core group of characters. Diana is a strong heroine, both physically and mentally tough. Her Cuban-American background is nicely unique, and she her relationship with her brother differs from the usual overbearing protectiveness so common to brother-sister relationships in romances. Ryder is a compellingly cool, yet dark figure. He has an interesting relationship with Melissa Danvers, the latest in a long line of doctors in her family who have assisted Ryder over the years. She’s both uneasy about this change in their relationship after knowing him only as a family friend for years, yet protective of him at the same time now that she knows the truth.
But the romance is the dominating storyline, as well it should. Even the serial killer element that sets the story in motion is really more of a subplot. The slow, seductive relationship gradually builds into something more emotional, almost unexpectedly so. The ending isn’t really as conclusive as I would have liked, but the climactic scenes still pack a real punch.
Although the pace is occasionally slow, especially in the beginning, Darkness Calls is a good, solid read. The story gains momentum as it goes along instead of losing it, always a good thing, and the well-developed characters keep it engaging. As darkly seductive as its hero, this is a most worthy entry in the world of vampire romances.